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Bradwell vows to continue fight against 'turnaround'... Organizing continues to end 'turnaround' attacks on inner city Chicago schools

Parents, teachers, and students from Chicago's Bradwell Elementary School have vowed to continue the fight against 'turnaround' despite the vote of the Chicago Board of Education to subject their school to the draconian process at the end of this school year.

More than 200 students, parents, teachers, administrators and political leaders turned out for the late evening hearing on February 10, 2010, on the proposed "turnaround" of Bradwell. The overflow crowd spoke passionately despite the tight strictures of the hearing and returned to oppose the vote of the full Board of Education on February 24, 2010. Since the vote, Bradwell has remained organized and opposed to the turnaround. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.The Chicago Board of Education's February 24, 2010, decision to turnaround five schools on the South Side has already resulted in a huge spike in violence in at least one of the schools — Bradwell Elementary — after it was officially announced that every employee in the building is to be fired because the school has failed the children. One of the results of the Board's announcements that schools are "failing" is that the most undisciplined students, often gang members, declare that they no longer have to pay attention to their teachers, because "everyone knows" that the school, its principal, and its teachers are "failures." The result in inner city communities like Bradwell's is an immediate, then long term, spike is disciplinary problems and often street gang violence.

"Bradwell took two years to create a stable school, but after (the turnaround decision) there's been a fight at the school everyday," said Rainbow Push director Jonathan Jackson. Jackson was referring to the fact that the new administration at Bradwell has been in the school for less than two years, and that prior to the arrival of the new principal, as Bradwell teachers, students and parents had testified at the hearing on February 10, the former Area Instructional Officer and principal had seemed to be sabotaging the school.

Jackson hosted the teachers and students of Bradwell Elementary at his Rainbow Push forum March 6 to publicize the plight of one of the five public schools that are to undergo turnaround.

Bradwell Elementary School teacher Antoinette Waldon (above at microphone) spoke forcefully against the turnaround of Bradwell at the February 10, 2010, hearing at CPS headquarters. Despite the voluminous evidence presented by Bradwell and its supporters, the Chicago Board of Education on February 24 voted unanimously and without debate to subject the school to the controversial "turnaround". Behind Waldon are the school's principal and alderman Sandi Jackson, both of whom spoke passionately against the "turnaround." Waldon spoke to the March 6 meeting of Rainbow PUSH and PUSH's Jonathan Jackson vowed to help Bradwell continue its fight against "turnaround." Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.Antoniette Walden, a National Board certified teacher at the Myra Bradwell Math, Science and Technology Academy, told the Rainbow Push crowd that the reason Bradwell is on the list is because there is a contract between the Chicago Public Schools and the Academy of Urban Schools (AUSL), which is to manage Bradwell, in which they are to have 20 schools by the year 2012.

If the proposed Board of Education plans are finalized, AUSL is to manage Deneen, Curtis and Phillips High School in addition to Bradwell. The Board voted at its February 24 meeting to close, turnaround, phase out or consolidate eight schools. Schools chief Ron Huberman has stated that turnaround schools receive $1 million in their first year. Although the Board delayed the decision on awarding the turnaround contracts, sources familiar with the process still anticipate that AUSL will be getting the majority of turnaround work, despite growing controversy over the AUSL.

"Since AUSL has such a great turnaround plan, why not share it with all the schools?" Walden asked at PUSH on March 6. "Why use it as a vehicle to disrupt a school community instead of using it as a tool to enhance the quality of education for all students? Regardless of who runs a school, every child deserves the best education for all students. Our children should not have to wait for a company such as AUSL to pour resources into the schools, when the tax dollars the Board of Education is going to give this entity could be providing the resources now to the students that have the greatest needs."

Bradwell has been a revolving door for students because there is a high mobility rate due to the replacement of public housing with Section 8 vouchers where families have to scramble around the city to find places to rent. Many of the veteran teachers at Bradwell have worked long into the night and provided extra tutoring at their own expense to work with these especially vulnerable children.

Bradwell teachers and student at the March 6, 2010 meeting of Rainbow PUSH. On the left is teacher Antoinette Waldon, on the right teacher Jacqueline White. Waldon came to Bradwell from the Bunche school, which was closed and turned over to the "Providence Englewood Charter School" four years ago. White has been teaching kindergarten at Bradwell for more than 20 years. Substance photo by Lara Krejca. Jacqueline White, a 20-year veteran kindergarten teacher, noted 400 students enter their school and 600 leave during the school year, "but we are still a force teaching and loving the children."

"This plan is being used to steam roll veteran teachers out of their newly renovated facilities and positions to be replaced by newly graduated teachers and provide them with a mentor teacher that trains them daily," Walden said, "And they provide an instructional assistant to help these teachers in their classrooms that equates to 3-4 adults in a classroom. Why can't CPS provide that for all the schools?"

Jonathan Jackson pumped up the Saturday morning crowd at Rainbow PUSH by telling people he doesn't like to march, but he will march and do whatever it else it takes to defend the public schools and its teachers that are being attacked. For example, why give AUSL $10 million when you can give that money directly to the schools that need it, Jackson said.

"When there's a profit line, more money is going to go into the bottom line and not into the children," Jackson said.

AUSL certainly seems to fit that bill. Sources say they have hired high-profiled public relations firms to publicize their successes so that their national "turnaround" model that President Barack Obama is promoting looks like a success.

At the January 19, 2010, press conference announcing the proposed closings and turnarounds for this year, CPS Chief Executive Officer Ron Huberman's staff allowed a private public relations firm hired by AUSL to be present and to present information about AUSL to reporters in the Board's sixth floor press room. The firm, "Public Communications Inc." (One East Wacker Drive, Chicago) refused to tell Substance how much they are being paid to manage PR for AUSL. To Substance's knowledge, the AUSL schools are the only public school in Chicago to have hired their own privatized public relations firm.

At every opportunity, teachers, parents, students and Bradwell supporters have taken the opportunity to refute every claim made by CPS that Bradwell is a "failing" school. Bradwell turned out an overflow crowd for the February 10 hearing at CPS headquarters, despite the late time of the hearing and the cold February weather. Speakers utilized all the time they were given in the two-hour time limit to defend their school, and they presented the hearing officer with a massive binder outlining the case against a "turnaround" for Bradwell. Nevertheless, the seven members of the Board of Education voted on February 24 to do "turnaround" at Bradwell without having ever read the contents of the binder (Substance has confirmed that no members of the Board had the complete record from the hearings, including transcripts and exhibits, at the time of the Board meeting. Board members have repeatedly refused to be interviewed by Substance reporters about their controversial votes in 2008, 2009 and 2010).

Chicago teachers union leaders turned out on February 10 to show support for Bradwell and opposition to "turnaround." Above, former CTU President Deborah Lynch (foreground, black sweater) and CORE leader Norine Gutekanst (glasses, right) waited to speak in support of Bradwell. Officers of the Chicago Teachers Union, including CTU President Marilyn Stewart, spoke against the proposals every night, although on some nights the hearing officers refused to hear all of their testimony. Substance photo by George N. Schmidt.Opposition to the turnarounds this year has been greater than every before. In addition to receiving solidarity support from others in the union and from the current CTU leadership, Bradwell has been helped by an unprecedented show of opposition to the policies by political leaders.

Two weeks ago Alderman Pat Dowell, who sponsored a resolution in the City Council to put a one-year moratorium on all school closings, phase outs, consolidations and turnarounds, hosted a public forum for the Phillips High School turnaround. She told the crowd assembled that this will not be a "beat-up" session on AUSL, and then similar to the public hearings, gave the private management company time to promote their agenda.

Every speaker from the community then spoke out against the turnaround, noting the African-American AUSL Board member and minister who spoke in favor of AUSL is the only black member of the 18 member AUSL board. AUSL turnaround schools are predominantly in the African American community.

But it already looks like deals at the top are being made with politicians like Alderman Dowell who have taken a strong stand to support their community aginst the interests of the mayor's plan to privatize education.

According to Alderman Dowell's newsletter, after she held the community meeting at the Apostolic Faith Church for Phillips, the alderman negotiated some conditions, which were agreed upon by Schools chief Ron Huberman.

"The turnaround of Phillips will be developed with maximum community representation via the formation of an Oversight Committee that will include members of the community and Phillips alumni. Additionally, AUSL's five year contract has been truncated to a three year contract, so that can progress can be evaluated."

It remains to be seen, however, if this means the alderman will stop fighting the turnaround process that her community appears to be solidy against.

The last alderman to sponsor a resolution for a moratorium on school closings in the City Council, Alderman Michael Chandler, suddenly refused to introduce the resolution in the council's education committee for a vote.

Alderman Chandler later lost his re-election. 



Comments:

November 23, 2010 at 6:02 PM

By: Sharonda Basemore

This Article

I was wondering how could i get in touch with Jacqueline White? I am an Alumni of Myra Bradwell Academy and she was my kindergarten teacher and i am working with this organization Stand for Children and I was wondering if i could be in touch with her.

Thanking you in Advance,

Sharonda Basemore

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